One piece of advice I like to offer about sourcing safe products from suppliers in the promotional products industry is, “trust, but verify.” In the 1980’s, author Suzanne Massey once suggested to then president Ronald Reagan that he use Russian parables to better communicate with government officials of the Soviet Union. The author suggested "doveryai no proveryai"—trust, but verify—which became Reagan's signature line when discussing U.S. relations with the USSR.
When you do business with suppliers that you have a long-term relationship with, an important ingredient to increase business with them is trust. Chances are, you continue to do business with that same supplier because you continue to receive great service and prices. As a distributor, you may find that end-user clients are turning up the heat on requirements for product safety and compliance. You may be tempted to offer a simple, “yes” when they ask you, “it’s tested, right?” It may be a normal response, considering that your relationship with the supplier is solid and you have been doing business together for a long time. Surely, the supplier would not do anything to put your client’s brand at risk.
Let’s look at one scenario: Your end-user client is in the automotive space. Everybody loves their pets and would naturally want to make sure they are safe when riding in the car. Using a branded pet restraint promotional product probably seems like a good idea. Of course, you would expect your supplier to test the pet restraint and provide the results as a standard protocol, right?
Let’s take a closer look at the pilot study that drives the mission of the Center for Pet Safety (CFPS): In 2011, CFPS tested several readily available pet restraints. Some of the restraints referenced in their product marketing materials were tested to the same standards of a child restraint system. The CFPS set out, using a 55-pound canine crash test dummy, (no live animals were used) to test the general effectiveness of canine restraints. They also tested whether pets could become a secondary danger to human passengers in an accident.
Not surprisingly, the study revealed a 100 percent failure rate. None of the harnesses were deemed safe enough to protect the pet and the humans in an event of an accident. You can watch a slow-motion video that shows what can happen to a large harnessed dog in a simulated collision of a car traveling 30 miles per hour (again, no live animals were used). The video showed that not only did the animal have little chance of survival, there was a significant danger to other passengers in the car as well.
So, while it's wonderful if the answer to your, "it's tested, right?" question is “yes,” however the verification must come next. Consider this your reminder to trust, but verify. Your clients, their kids, and their dogs deserve it. Don't you think?
If you’d like to read more, please check out my column at Promo Marketing Blog.
Jeff Jacobs has been an expert in building brands and brand stewardship for more than 30 years. He’s a staunch advocate of consumer product safety and has a deep passion and belief regarding the issues surrounding compliance and corporate social responsibility. He is the executive director of Quality Certification Alliance, the industry’s only non-profit dedicated to helping suppliers provide safe and compliant products. Follow Jeff on Twitter, or reach out to him at [email protected].